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La Payunia Nature Reserve


It looks like an out-of-this-world place. With more than 800 volcanoes, it is one of the most highly dense volcanic fields on Earth. Its great scenic beauty dazzles with black, gold and copper deserts.

The best time to visit is from October to May. During winter, the snow may block the access.

What to see
A day amid volcanoes

You can take a one-day tour of the inner roads of the reserve and make different stops such as Pampa Negra, a great black plain formed by volcanic eruptions; the Morado Volcano, which offers a short hike to the crater; the Campo de Bombas and the La Herradura cone, a field of pyroclastic bombs launched by an eruption.


Along the way, you can see guanacos, lesser rheas and grackles, among other animals, and the Payún Matrú and Payún Liso volcanoes. The latter, at 3,680 metres, is the highest in the region.

La Pasarela

When leaving or entering the reserve, a stop can be made at an old stretch of National Route 40 called La Pasarela, where you can see how the water eroded a volcanic lava flow and formed a small, deep canyon.

The surroundings

Some 150 km away from La Payunia, in the city of Malargüe, is the Pierre Auger observatory, where scientists study and do research on cosmic rays. This information could give rise to a new discipline of science: Astronomy with Charged Particles. Book in advance. Free-of-charge.


Just 25 km away from Malargüe, you can reach the Pincheira Castles, which are geological formations declared Natural Monuments for their great scenic beauty and archaeological value. It is a lovely place to go for a walk. A restaurant, a camping site and a recreational area to spend the day are located at the base of the castles.

Some 35 km away from the city, you can reach the Malacara volcano, one of the few volcanoes that can be visited from the inside since the eruption was hydromagmatic: the lava came into contact with water, and the erosion and wear it caused along with the wind gave rise to passageways, sinkholes and chimneys that reach 30 metres high. Tours can be booked in advance in Malargüe. 


Some 70 km away from Malargüe, you can visit the Caverna de las Brujas (Witches' Cave) to see minerals in the form of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and large curtains; petrified corals in the rock and tunnels through which you have to walk almost on four legs. Guided walks inside the cave can be previously booked in the city.

How to get there and move around

The most usual access is through National Route 40 from Malargüe, some 150 km away. Alternatively, you can enter or exit via Provincial Route 186, but this road requires a 4WD vehicle.

Due to its location and the rugged terrain, the visit is always done with a guide. There are no services inside the reserve.

Where to stay

There is no accommodation or camping sites in the reserve. Malargüe has a good range of lodging options, i.e., hostels, cabins, inns and spa hotels in the city as well as camping sites. Nearby, to the west and north, options range from hotels with hot springs to domes and rental houses.

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